I run…therefore I am


127 Hours with Aaron

the view from below...

I don’t know if it was a good decision to watch 127 Hours at this time, 3 weeks into my ultimate run of a lifetime – the Bataan Death March 102-kilometer ultrarun.  I just figure out that it would a good conditioner for my upcoming ordeal – if Aaron Ralston can survive 127 hours, 18 hours should be a breeze, with a lot of sun, dust and unadultared carbon monoxide exhaust thrown in (according to friends who survived the weekend test run).

Of course, Ralston was just in one place while I will be moving forward and covering hopefully all 102 kilometers.  But.  He had his hand caught between a rock and the canyon wall, no plan of action, no support system, no contact with the outside world.  While I – will have a goal to finish in less than 127 hours, a coterie of vehicles I can rely on for food, clothing and rest, supportive friends who will be guiding and pacing me during the most crucial kilometers of the race plus I can easily call it quits and take the support vehicle when I feel I can’t go on anymore.

the real Aaron Ralston (we're not worthy!)

With Ralston, he had no choice but to make the most critical decision of his life in order to survive.  James Franco was perfect as Aaron, trapped and helpless during the most part of the movie.  If it were not handled by Danny Boyle (a favorite), I would have easily dozed off into the closing credits.  But with a lot of creative shots, scoring and editing – 127 Hours becomes a meditation of life and survival.  Some of the scenes were all too familiar – the recollections and hallucinations, the regrets and the spirit to struggle and soar.  Some of them I’ve gone through, though in a lesser degree, while struggling on the road with nature’s ever changing harsh conditions.

achievers both: franco, ralston.

Last night, while reading Born to Run, Mcdougall writes about one of America’s cruelest ultraruns – the Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado.  The elevations and descents and inhumane conditions was the perfect setting for the Tarahumara Indians, touted to be the world’s living strongest and fastest runners of mankind.  Anyway, Aaron Ralston is some kind of honorary member of Leadville 100.  Less than a year after surviving his 5-day ordeal, he was invited to join the race for free, if only to underscore the status he has achieved within the world of ultra athletes.  He finished it with his new prosthetic arm.  And he continues to run, jump, climb, dive wherever adventure awaits.

Now if I could only have 10% of Aaron’s indomitable spirit and stubbornness, methinks I’ll survive my own race of a lifetime.

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Movie of the Week: Passion of the Christ


Summer’s here and so are the movies.  It’s still best to watch these flicks inside the movie house to really appreciate the director’s artistic and technical merits.

Movie of the week:  The Passion of the Christ.  This ‘small’ movie generated a lot of controversies and debates in the months to its showing, the result is one of the most graphic and organic depiction of Christ’s last 12 hours on earth. Mel Gibson stuck to the traditional portrayal of Christ’s passion based on the books of John.  So expect nothing new from what we have learned in Cathechism class yet this film feels fresh and worth the 2.5 hours of Aramaic and Hebrew in English subtitles.

But beyond the endless flow of blood and flying flesh is the film’s heartrending relationship between mother and son in the face of all adversities. Mary is portrayed as one tough mother who sticks it out while witnessing his son’s body slowly shredded and torn to death.  Little melodrama here but it’s going to tickle your lacrymals, from the eerie opening scene in Gethsemane to culminating crucifixion in Golgotha. Trends show this could be the next movie to challenge Titanic’s prolonged hold as the highest grossing film of all time after it overtook Lord of the Rings’ Return of the King a few weeks back.  It would be a sin to miss out on the ‘Passion’ but it would be a greater sin to let ‘Titanic’ reign as the top movie of all time.


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RANDOM THOUGHTS: Hollywood Megalomania

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Hollywood Megalomania

It is one of those rare times when Hollywood parodies itself straight in the eye.  It’s one of those rarer times when Hoffman, De Niro and Levinson combine talents to come up with a telling cinematic commentary.  “Wag the Dog” was released during the height of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, so it can easily be accused of cashing in on the White House scum.  Yet seen months after, ‘Wag’ sends an even louder and scary message in these fast ’90’s – Hollywood matters.

Twelve days before election day, the U.S. president’s chance for a second term is suddenly jeopardized by an alleged affair with a young white house intern.  So what to do?  Call in the spin doctor (De Niro) who utilizes the services of a Hollywood producer (Hoffman) to create an artificial war and deviate the country’s fixation from the presidential zipper to his patriotic heart.  The first production of the film saves the president’s derriere but deterrent events would force them to create more sequels until the president finally returns to the oval office.

It’s a funny look at how visuals with a lot of Hollywood tinkering can distort and reinvent a whole new nation.  In this case, Hollywood saves Washington or Showbiz salvages politics which in the Philippines have become almost synonymous. Why have we allowed Hollywood to grow this big (as GODzilla) to takeover our box-office and creep into our lives?  Most of today’s MTV generation, characterized by short attention span, is more fascinated by these special effects.  OK, car chases exploding giant comets and humongous green reptiles can be engrossing especially with today’s technology.  But you leave the moviehouse the same as your popcorn bag – empty (and half-deaf).

Boy, I could write a book on the evils of MegaHollywood but then … what for?  Meanwhile, whenever you find yourself in a dark row of the movie house, be mesmerized by the visuals, be taken by the spectre of emotions, and believe in the magic of filmmaking.  But be warned that it could just be some Hollywood mogul manipulating your senses, wringing your tear ducts dry and programming your adrenaline levels for two hours.  So, relax and enjoy the ride!


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Movie of the Week: DARK CITY

Movie of the Week: DARK CITY

The Verdict: Watchitwatchit! (esp. for the MTRCB cardholders, I am green with envy)

Discussing any concept or theory this movie exhibits would be preemptive of a potentially great viewing experience.  I would not want to spoil any of your excitement … but then again, by the time you lay eyes on this review, the last full show of Dark City would now be flashing the credits and by Wednesday, a new movie (probably Pusong Mamon or He Got Game) would have replaced it.

So here’s is rundown, John Murdoch wakes up with no recollection of himself or surroundings. A mysterious caller rings him up to warn that he is a subject of an experiment, his mind had been wiped clean of any memory and he needs to leave the place, pronto. From the bathtub, he staggers towards the bedroom only to discover a knife and a dead body scribbled with circles of blood.  As he leaves the room, he notices the elevator ascending to reveal three bald pates emerging so he scampers down the stairs, not knowing his destiny and identity.  He exits the building to reveal a network of Gothic skyscrapers and highways, rising towards the skies to block out any trace of light.  Thus the title, Dark City.

Writer and director (and producer) Alex Prayos gives us a futuristic tale with undertones of a psychological thriller (Kafkasque).  The narrative plays on the concept of memory removal and replacement. Early in the movie, it was established that a group of flying bald aliens in trench coats were playing with the memories of the citizens in the city once the clock strikes at 12 (there was no noon or midnight).  With the help of a human scientist, they whip up a concoction of memories for each inhabitant – a dash of a traumatic childhood, a hint of teenage rebellion and a streak of work alienation, etc.  By the middle of the movie, you get the feeling that none of the human specimen has an original recollection intact.  This was the aliens’ method of conquering the human soul and eventually taking over the humans to sustain their dying race.  Only one human, would emerge from the ranks to do mind battle with the bald men. In flashes of scenes, John Murdoch, it turns out was conditioned and trained by the good doctor who, since John’s childhood, was a constant presence (as a teacher, as a neighbor. etc.) to guide and teach him mostly on telepathy and mind control.  After eliminating all the hairless creatures, Murdoch, again through mind exertions, transforms the City according to his memories (which was just created by the doctor).  In the end, the sun emerges to light the whole city which was actually transplanted in an alien planet.

I won’t mention na of the film noir feel nor the striking 50’s sets and architecture (which surprisingly blended well with the futuristic bleak atmosphere) nor the great editing and revelatory stages of the narrative nor the terror those flying bald guys in kabuki make-up stalked on the viewer.  This movie is better seen than read.


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The Dental Movie Critic If it sticks, it really holds (Kapag dumikit, lalong kumakapit)

The Dental Movie Critic

If it sticks, it really holds (Kapag dumikit, lalong kumakapit)

It was one of those really rare times when I found myself wandering through the peopled boulevard and busy streets of Cubao.  I still remember the time when it was the center of Metro Manila, long before the malls began sprouting and completely cut it off from the shopping circle.  Now all it can boasts are seedy pubs, dark characters, (isn’t it that anyone who experienced getting their jewelry snatched in the middle of the day, happened in Cubao?) really bad traffic and dinky, sticky and stinky movie houses.  This is where it all happens…

For a little adventurism, I ventured into the dark alleys of one of those old theaters (it was not Alta, OK?) just to get a feel and smell of the pito-pito movie experience. The movie was supposed to be good because it comes from the company which is better known in making watches and lucky wallets. The title is more appropriate for a Pioneer epoxy ad, ‘If it sticks, it really bonds’, at least in English.  To escape from the prying eyes of would-be maniacs and hold uppers, I had to repair myself just a few meters from the screen which is half the size of the average silver screen in malls.  It seemed ideal, however, the audio was screechingly loud and annoying.  It was like listening to my old 45’s, 20 years later. Since the place could seat only 50, the place was really cold and it was more like hanging out with some kanto buddies, with all the hooting, jeering and fun laughter.  That kept me up during the movie’s duration.  Otherwise, I would have easily dozed off from the silly plot and actors who look more like your usual tricycle drivers.  Buti sana, if they were playing that part.  Problem is, they are supposed to be filthy rich who have money to burn.

So, why didn’t lead hunk have his upper front teeth bridged instead of sporting a removable plastic denture which was probably fabricated by a technician.  I still have to understand why most Pinoy cameramen love to give their subjects full face blow-up, sometimes the whole lips would occupy the whole screen so one (esp. with my dental orientation) can easily discern false from real dentitions.  Add all the minute imperfections (moustached sexy starlet, zits, cracked porcelain crown on one tooth, etc.) which get magnified a hundred times on the screen.  By the time they bare their emotions and skin, they are no longer suffering characters in an ST flick but patients in desperate need of a good dentist. I mean a shapely or well-defined musculature should come with a good set of teeth – nicely filled or restored when necessary.

Maybe, it is a picture of the sad state of Philippine Cinema.  If one of its denizens (he be a lowly bold actor) cannot afford to improve his looks (esp. his basic dental requirements), because of the meager pay, then I have decided to shut out my viewing schedule from these campy B-movies.  I can always watch intended comedy, anyway.  The movie made a killing at tills, mind you.  I wonder if the actors received their bonuses, enough to pay for their dental needs.


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The Innate Rights of a Moviegoer

The Innate Rights of a Moviegoer

Only in this country where its citizens are not aware, primarily due to ignorance and suppression of information, of their basic privileges and rights in many aspects of their daily life.  Consumers and buyers are clueless of their right to purchase quality goods.  Patients are too shy to question or even inquire on their real condition and the treatment rate from their physicians.  Everything is a guessing and groping game.

Recently, there has. been an emerging sector in society which the big business can no longer ignore – the regular moviegoer. They say China has the biggest turnout in box-office receipts, they’re also 16 times our population.  In proportion to their total population, Filipinos are the most active attendees in the world cinema circuit.  Because of the huge volume of the movie going public, people involved in the movie industry –  the producers, distributors, theater operators, have largely ignored the clamor for quality movie viewing.  Perhaps, they surmised that the Filipinos will keep watching crappy movies while being subjected to horrendous theater conditions. ‘kala nila!

I feel I had to do a Rizal – travel to the West, see for myself the liberties and rights that they are enjoying, and share with you what we had been missing.  This is not exactly La Solidaridad but this will hopefully open our eyes to years of maiming our basic rights and exact some sort of revolt against these callous theater owners who have only our P40 in their minds.

Ihave the right to unobstructed movie viewing – a) No abrupt shifts in between reels which sometimes edit the audio and worse, deprive us of the few scenes from the next reel b) No lull in between reels while waiting for the bicycling lagarista to arrive from Cubao where the other end of the reel is also showing. c) Follow the written film schedules because there are people who watch movies from the start, not only to avoid the 30 to 45-minute recess and seeing their favorite politicos in their patriotic stance but basically, starting the narration from opening credits makes for a more logical viewing appreciation.  Unless, it’s ‘Pulp Fiction’…

I have the right to a pleasurable viewing experience.  Which means a) no noisy participants, who in their frustration to distill the movie plot would concentrate on their favorite actor’s hair color, new nose bridge or nipple color.   b) no mobile watchers, shifting to and from the bathroom and the snack bar during the duration of the movie.  Unless, one is watching Jose Rizal or Titanic, suppressing one’s bladder would be no big deal, right?  And please, no spilling of sticky beverage on the floor.  c) no slumbering/snoring watchers who love to transform the theaters into their personal motel rooms. d)good, ideal air conditioning system.  Here’s a tip, volume of moviegoers is inversely proportional to the system thermostat.

3.   I have the right to watch good quality films.  I am not pertaining to being subjected to Caparas flicks featuring two overweight presidential children dangling by a vine or disappearing tribes with dwindling sperm count.  I am referring to theater owners who are scrimping on their audiovisual equipments that a good movie would appear very dull and blurry (time to change the projector bulb) or sound shrill and in whispering modes (get a good sound technician to check them).  We went all the way in the mall to have a good theatrical feel but what we get is worse than watching those pirated VHS films, complete with walking silhouettes and unbridled laughter.

4.   I have the right to watch the film in its complete, unmangled, unsanitized version. a) Distributors, even producers, should respect the director’s version of a film without ‘voluntarily’ reinterpreting and opening it to a wider audience (read: more box office revenues).   b) It is a mortal sin for distributors to retitle films just to sell to a wider audience familiar with movies as Malice 1, 2, 3.

These may be petty gripes from a small moviegoer like me.  But for serious film buffs (yes, we exist), these little comforts in the dark rows of a theater could make or unmake for a rewarding viewing experience.  Let me just say that I am not alone in this crusade, we number beyond the tickets which could fill your see-thru boxes, or the number of pop corns spilled on the theater floors.  And we are increasing by every opening day and uniting to rise and overcome the invisible hands manipulating the cinema circuit in the coming attractions. At last, cineastes can finally write and direct their own productions.  It will be a debut effort, which will have no sequels or returns.  Just a one-time revolt which would surely shatter all box-office norms and system.  It’s killing time, folks!


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A Night with Curacha

A Night With Curacha

Perhaps, you’ve heard of it already from friends or from your favorite columnist.  Last February 22, the MTRCB in a rare display of flexibility and liberalism allowed the full screening of one of the most talked about and anticipated movie for the year, Curacha, ang babaeng walang pahinga. It was actually a week long centennial film festival which featured a lot of the rare gems from Philippine cinema, including premiers of at least 4 new works from the likes of Portes and Rono.

But not surprisingly, it is this one movie which gathered enough fire to send almost all of the hot-blooded males in town to fill the lines which snaked around Megamall for at least two hours.  Perhaps, the excitement was heightened by Rossana’s pronouncements that she will exhibit her Filipino geography – Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in full glory.  The almost prohibitive P100 premiere ticket did not deter some viewers who even had to pay scalpers at least P300.

By the time we got in the movie house, all the, seats had been taken so we had to content our-selves to standing along the aisle during the entirety of the film.  Even as the lights dimmed, I had to stand erect and banish any longing to even seat on the floor.  Since one is surrounded and squeezed by bodies from all sides, it was easy to gather a survey of every smell and odor in the planet (CK one, three flowers, Old Spice).  Even the poor air conditioner, perhaps out of confusion on the menagerie of temperature and odor it had to vacuum out, finally gave up in the middle of the movie and even worsen our already sorry conditions.

So how was the movie?  Well, despite the difficulty and ordeal we had to go through, Curacha is one movie you shouldn’t let pass.  The basic theme of sex set against a coup d’etat is already quite arresting. Some writers have even gone beyond looking at Rosanna as the symbol of our country, confused and lost and looking for instant solutions in times of desperation.  Curacha (played by Roces) is a live sex performer besieged by endless ordeals in her life (a friend’s death from AIDS, loss of a torrero-lover, etc.). The soldier’s rebellion, supposedly a period of turmoil, only help to clear up questions and problems within her who has been tempered to such chaos. Only after the coup does she see a clarity, almost a kind of peace.  Along the movie, snippets of a degraded society – a dog being roasted, a girl with two genitalias, a circus family,  a spiderman stage performer, who encapsulates the entire stage with strings (web) emanating somewhere from his gluteus maximus – are inserted not only for a little shock value but also a commentary of a people which feeds on exagerrated and almost fantastical stories.

Religion and politics, two powerful forces of the times, cruise and cross paths during the movie’s magical moments. When poor Curacha enters a nunnery to escape the fighting, an old nun unknowlingly questions her being a torera, if she, breeds cows.  Or when a general involved with Curacha tries to decide whether to join the coup forces through an upright response from little Peter.  Scenes such as these keep the movie going and entertain even the ordinary Juan who had lined up to drool on Rosanna’s anatomy.  In the end, it is the film’s vision to question the norms and disturb the viewer with its riveting yet very real Filipino visuals and ideas which see the movie through. One leaves Cinema 6, with a lot of ambiguity but also, with a better and real grasp of society.